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Second GOP congressman this week announces retirement

U.S. Rep. Pete Olson of Texas announced Thursday he would not seek re-election after his current term, becoming the second Republican congressman this week to do so. Olson's retirement could set up a fierce battle in his district, which was once a safe Republican district but has become increasingly Democratic, and national Democrats have made it clear they are focusing on Texas as a battleground state in 2020. 

Olson's decision comes one day after Rep. Paul Mitchell of Michigan, announced his own retirement. Like Mitchell, he said his family was a big factor.

"As someone who has long advocated for policies that put our families first," Olson said in his statement. "It's time for me to take my own advice and be a more consistent presence to help our family."

Olson and Mitchell were among the first Republican congressmen to break with President Trump, who won by 8 points in Olson's district, after his racist tweets last week towards four progressive women of color. In his announcement on the floor, Mitchell cited "politics" and "rhetoric" as why he wouldn't seek re-election.

House Rules Committee Meets On Reconciliation Act of 2010
Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) (C) speaks in front of other freshman Republican representatives hold a news conference about their opposition to proposed health care reform legislation on March 20, 2010 in Washington, DC.  Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images

However, unlike Mitchell who had a 20-point reelection win in 2018, Olson won by just 5 points against his 2018 Democratic challenger Sri Preston Kulkarni. Kulkarni was looking for a rematch in 2020 and outraised Olson by about $43,000 in the second quarter.

Even before Olson's announcement, Democrats had been eyeing races in Texas in 2020. Texas Democratic Party communications director Abhi Rahman called Texas the "biggest battleground state" and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) already had put Texas 22nd Congressional District, located in the Houston suburbs, on its target list of six seats in the state that could be flipped.

"The simple facts are that Pete Olson is too extreme for Texas and represents an increasingly diverse, Democratic district. With the DCCC and Texas Democrats rising up in Texas' 22nd district, clearly D.C. Republicans told Pete Olson that it's time to set aside," Rahman said in a statement.

Republican organizations like the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican Party of Texas thanked Olson for his work in Congress and said they are confident they will keep his seat red in 2020.

"Whoever the socialist Democrats nominate will be forced to defend their party's radical agenda of socialized medicine and killing oil and gas jobs with the Green New Deal in a solid Republican district," NRCC chairman Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota said. "This will remain a Republican district for the foreseeable future."

Olson was first elected in 2008 and his statement, he said it was time to pass the torch onto his replacement.

"It's time for another citizen-legislator to take up this mission," he said. "Not to make a career out of politics, but to help lead in the cause of empowering our people, defending our liberties, and making sure America remains the greatest nation in history."

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